Thursday, February 27, 2014

Snapshots of Dublin

"I would love a good fish and chips for dinner" I said casually one night.
"We can go tomorrow to Germany and have one at the Nordsee, if you want" Boyfriend suggested.
"I don't. I don't want that soft German version," I replied sharply, "I'm craving the real stuff, a long battered cod filet with thick greasy fries, all soaking in vinegar".

Looking back on this meaningless conversation we had one evening in January, it now seems almost premonitory to me. Only a couple of weeks later I would find myself sketching an impromptu trip to Dublin and quite excited at the prospect of gulping down an authentic fish and chips very soon. But the excitement was due to a bit more than a piece of fish and some fries on the side. I was going to a city totally unknown to me, to a country I had never been to before and all on my own. It was already three years and a half since the last time I visited a new country and when I first learnt about the possibility of this sudden trip to Dublin I went directly to a bookshop and bought a shiny and brand-new Dublin city guide (not that I need an upcoming trip to do so, as I collect travel guides since I was a child).

After spending four nice days in Dublin I arrived yesterday back home, totally exhausted. I hadn't slept well for three nights in a row but on my last night in Dublin I somehow managed to fall and stay asleep for more than two hours. My body and mind were finally getting the rest they so needed until the fire alarm of the hotel rang at 1:30am. ONE THIRTY IN THE NIGHT!!! I woke up feeling totally disoriented and after some mental rambling I put on my trainers and went downstairs to the reception. I took a cardi with me in case something was really going on and we needed to leave the hotel but nothing happened. The recepcionists looked apologetic and said that whatever was going on had already be fixed. So nothing to worry about, I could go back to bed and sleep again, only that I couldn't. My heart was beating fast, almost tachycardically and my brain prevented me to sleep, as it persuaded me that if I fell asleep quickly I could not know if I was really falling asleep or quietly passing away intoxicated by carbon monoxide. Despite nothing happening, that was the train of thought that entertained my mind and everytime I was on the verge of falling asleep I forced myself to move until I eventually closed my eyes and gave in.

Besides the sleepless nights - and, oh, the time I tripped over and the cobblestones and more than a handful of passerbys saw me fall down on my knees - Dublin was grand. I had a great time there, enjoyed lots of sightseeing, ate myself happy and came home with a huge crush. I even said something I never thought I would say about any city in the world, but I said it. Dublin might be even prettier than London - there, I said it!. I will be writing more about Dublin in the upcoming weeks but for now I'll let the photos do some talking.

Have you ever been to Dublin? Did you like it as much as I did?
Have a lovely Thursday!

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Saturday, February 22, 2014


Time for another recap of our Ticino trip back in November. We were only for three short days in the Italian-speaking canton of Switzerland and one of them was actually spent in Italy, so we couldn't do as much sightseeing as we intended to but still we managed to get a good flavour of the region and would love to visit it again sometime (doesn't that just always happen?)

Driving from Basel, it takes a bit more than three hours to reach Ticino. We crossed the whole country from north to south and because it was still early November and there wasn't much snow around we took the St Gotthard pass on our way to Ticino - we returned via the St Gotthard tunnel, which is the longest in Switzerland at 17 km long. The road was winding, though not as much as the one we would encounter later in Italy, and the views were amazing. There was just a little snow covering the top of the mountains and the valleys were crisscrossed by dozens of streams which poured crystal water into the creeks. Descending the St Gothard pass, the landscape gradually changed. Gone were the pine trees and alpine vegetation and suddenly there were palmtrees around. Palmtrees in Switzerland! Other than that - and the sights of the Lugano Lake - the landscape in Ticino is very rural with many isolated stone houses among farming lands and groups of sheeps. Locarno was our base for that trip. We stayed there for two nights and mainly explored the city in the evenings, while looking for some hearty food to fill our stomachs.

Locarno is a small city by Lago Maggiore, renowned for a minor film festival that takes place in August every year. The heart of the city is the Piazza Grande, which is also the place where films are displayed during the Locarno Film Festival. From there everything can be easily reached on foot. Many of the main sights are religious, churchs or monasteries. But architecture is also worth a look, as it is so different from everything else in Switzerland. And everything I had seen so far in Switzerland. Most buildings are made of stone, with dominating straight lines and grey as a dominating colour. So far from the typical wooden alpine chalets in the middle of the country, and probably more close to the traditional houses in the north of Italy. Locarno expands itself along the Lago Maggiore and there is a nice walk along lined by palmtrees. There is also a botanical garden right at the end of the municipal term of Locarno. 

What I probably enjoyed most about my visit to Locarno were the lake views - seriously, they were truly beautiful! But I also enjoyed some fine eating, just like I would expect in an Italian-speaking place. On the first evening we went to a pizzeria by the lake and had an amazing pizza napoletana (the one with anchovies and capers). The location was superb and prices were very decent for Swiss standards. On our second night in Locarno we explored the most touristic surroundings around Piazza Grande and chose an eatery catering more typical Ticino dishes. And there I had one of the best risottos I have tasted in my life, so creamy and tasty.

That was pretty much our trip to Locarno. The day we were leaving I ventured to take some photos early in the morning but sadly it was raining, so I couldn't enjoy myself as much I usually do - I so dislike the rain. Hopefully, if there's a second time, there will be sun!

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Beatenberg, a mountain with a view

Life has been quite hectic around here since the beginning of February. Birthdays, dinners with friends, unexpected trips on a very short notice, you name it, and it seems that March will be equally stressful. With so much going on I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately and yearning for a break and in Switzerland and for me that usually means a quick getaway to the mountains.

Last Sunday I thought that it would be nice to let go of all my worries for one day and treat myself to a short roadtrip to see some snow on the Swiss mountains. Said and done, Boyfriend and I left Basel early in the morning and we drove to Interlaken, one of my favoutrite places in Switzerland. Interlaken is a small village in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland, tucked in the Alps and with a big lake to each side, as the name suggests. Interlaken has long been an alluring destination for all kind of thrill-seekers, as the surroundings offer many possibilities to practice adventure sports, both during winter and summer. True story: after going to Interlaken for the first time I was so in awe of the landscape that I thought the best way to enjoy it would be from the sky, gently balancing on a paraglide, despite my fear of flying. Then I watched the French blockbuster The Intouchables and decided that, more than probably, this is never happening.

The views in Interlaken are always breathtaking but this winter is being way too mild in Switzerland so the only snow around was high in the distant Alps and after a light lunch we drove further to Beatenberg. It is both the name of the mountain and the village on the mountainside. The way up is really picturesque, as the road traverses the village dotted with the typical wooden chalets that baound in the Alps regions and snow begins to appear on the sides of the road. Once up there, the mountain views on the valley are really breathtaking. Interlaken and the nearby lakes, Thunersee and Brienzersee can be glimpsed from above. The cute wooden buildings look like hundreds of dollhouses from the distance, set in a dreamy, snowy ladnscape and the lakes reflect the clear sky and rolling clouds just like a mirror would. These sights are definitely some of my favourites in the world and I find them to be very soothing. Just what I needed in these erratic times.

Hope you enjoyed the view as well! Do you have any recommendation of more beautiful nature to admire in Switzerland?
Have a lovely Wednesday!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Swiss Things I Love

Last December I was reading my year horoscope for 2014 and among all the pointless advice that usually comes with astrological predictions, I was told that this year would not follow any of my plans and that I should be extremely flexible when handling unexpected situations. A month and a half into 2014 and I can totally nod in agreement with that prediction. The last couple of weeks have been a bit crazy with one weird and unpredictable event happening just after another. As my circumstances changed every now and then I've forced myself to take a step back and think thoroughly about the things that really matter in life, in my life. Some days I see things clearly and some I don't, some days I think I know what I want and some I don't, but I'm almost certain that I will need to be really flexible this year. All that much thinking has left me exhausted - mentally, not physically. Some weeks ago I started to do ballet workout and by now I feel totally graceful even when I'm lifting my leg in the most graceless way. To ease my mind I also enrolled in a economics MOOC and I now spend more time figuring out mathematical problems than worrying about not being able to settle down and enjoy this new life in Switzerland, which is a relief. And that's pretty much everything I've been doing in the last week when I've been so absent from blogland.

*     *     *     *     *

Today is 14th February and that means hearts and flowers galore. Yep, it's Valentine's Day and I thought it might be a good idea to bury the hatchet and share some Switzerland love. Right now I have very mixed feelings about this small country and sometimes I even think I'm growing bitter towards her. I'm trying hard to like her, but Switzerland doesn't make things easy for foreign spouses, partners and the like - nor for foreigners on their own. Still there are always lovely things to enjoy and here are some of my favourites.

The Alps - If I could only choose one favourite thing in Switzerland I think it would be the Alps. Those mountains are gorgeous and seeing them covered in snow is guaranteed to take my sorrows away. I love them in winter, spring, summer and autumn. I love them on sunny days when the snow reflects the sunlight so brightly that it is almost blinding.

Nature - Besides the Alps, Switzerland has way too many gorgeous landscapes. Forests, lakes and even waterfalls are all really pretty. Just like Amy Farrah Fowler told Bernadette that she looked beautiful, not Penny-beautiful but beautiful when trying her wedding dress, I usually say now about other countries that they're beautiful, not Switzerland-beautiful but beautiful. Yes, I've been spoilt!

Cheese and bread - I was never a fan of cheese nor of bread. In fact I only ate yellow cheese which didn't stink smell like cheese and hardly ever ate bread until I moved to the Netherlands (Dutch people eat mostly bread for lunch, so I kinda had to). But even I, a picky eater, fell prey to Switzerland's delicious food. I love a good raclette and bread is was too good here to try and cut it off completely from my diet. My favourites are Silserbrot, Butterzopf and Tessinerbrot.

Summer - I was really surprised when I came to Switzerland for the first time during the summer and temperatures were around 40ºC. I don't really enjoy hot weather but here it is somehow more bearable than in Spain, it is usually cooler at night and I didn't get as dizzy as I do in Spain when temperatures are above 30ºC. I think it is simply great to go out to read by the river or to enjoy a cold homemade ice-tea or to lay on the grass in the nearest park and have some BBQ with friends.

Orderly life - Not that I'm an avid rule-follower (actually I'm more of a rule-breaker) but I do appreciate the orderly way Swiss people lead their lives. Switzerland has many a rule to ensure that everyone lives and let live. I specially like how buses and trams are scheduled by the minute, so I always know at what time exactly I should be at the stop.

Have you ever been to Switzerland? What do you like most about Switzerland?

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Some photos from Lago Maggiore

I once worked in a travel company where I met a lovely girl who would eventually become a dear friend to me. As we would spend our days eyeing endless list of fine seaside resorts and cosy houses on the mountains and working through lists of exotic touristy destinations, it was almost inevitable that many of our conversations were related to travel and fuelled by our wanderlust. This friend had -and still has - a huge crush on Italy, she was totally infatuated by everything Italian. The language, the food, the places, cities and landscapes, and her Italian boyfriend. I, on the contrary, have never been interested in Italy at all. I don't know why but I have never felt attracted to its countless charms, I think Italian is the dullest language to learn ever and I find it annoying when people talk to me in Italian just because they think that being Spanish I will understand them. My relationship with Italy was restricted to my love for pizza and I didn't think there was a way for it to change. Until I went to Italy during a summer holiday, that's it. I had no idea of what I've been missing and despite the above 40ºC temperatures I liked every city I visited, loved every food I tasted and enjoyed every moment in Italy. I even felt tempted to learn some Italian but got bored and gave it up after a week - I much prefer to learn Germanic languages.

This friend of mine had spent many a summer holiday in the northern part of Italy, a region known as Italy Lakes Region and famous for being the region where George Clooney has his holiday mansion by the Lago Como. This friend of mine would go on and on about how beautiful this region was, how lovely it is to spend a summer week there and after a while her ideas infested my mind and I added the Italian lakes to my list of places to visit. And luckily this time, I didn't have to wait too long and last autumn I went for the first time to the north of Italy. Actually, it was a trip to Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland but Italy is just over the border. We stayed in Locarno, which is on the north shore of Lago Maggiore, and we also made a roadtrip to some neighbouring towns in the north of Italy. I still have to share all of this because this was just before I took my blogging break last November, but it's coming!

These are some of the photos I took at Lago Maggiore last November. It was a really misty morning and the weather couldn't be any more autumnal. Everything looked really magical, as if taken from a fairytale and I remember thinking that this was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. I'm now sure that a summer holiday in the Italian lakes must be something truly wonderful, a holiday to remember forever. But I also believe that Lago Maggiore is equally alluring on any autumn day. And I'm sure it'll be all the same on any winter or spring day.

Have a lovely Wednseday!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Photowalk: Lange Erlen Tierpark

A couple of weeks ago I decided that the best way to spend an otherwise lazy Sunday is to go out for a long walk, so long it does not rain. I get to breathe some fresh air and to strecht my legs for a while and it feels great! I simply love being outdoors during the winter, *sigh* if only there was snow! But even without any snow in town I still enjoy the cold breeze on my face and the warmth of my coat. And after an hour or two of winter sun I feel full of energy and ready for a new week to begin.

Last Sunday I went to one of my favourite places in Basel, the Lange Erlen Animal Park. The Lange Erlen park is right at the German border, alongside a thin water stream. The park itself has many ponds and creeks which are home to different species of ducks and geese. But they're not the only inhabitants of the park. Elks, ponies, goats, bobcats or boars can also be seen around, grazing or sleeping carelessly. In the recent years the Lange Erlen park has been expanded and some other animals have been added to the park, including bees, owls, mice or salamanders. Lange Erlen is not very big and it can be seen in approximately an hour but I find it a really relaxing walk. I love it when a city has good parks to enjoy and I particularly like not having to drive for hours to get that close to the nature.

Lange Erlen Tierpark is open daily from 8am till 5 or 6pm, depending on the time of the year. The only downside of visiting in winter is that some animals are nowhere to be seen as they are busy hibernating - but just imagine how beautiful it would look with some snow around! I know because I saw it covered by snow a couple of years ago.
Entry is free but there are several boxes where you can leave a small donation if you wish.

Have a lovely week!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

This blog is going carbon neutral (or so I hope!)

Goodbye January, hello February! Can you believe how fast the first month of 2014 has passed by? Yep, it is already 1st February and that means that a twelfth part of this not-so-new year is already gone. It also means that we are already halfway through the winter and I haven't seen a single snowflake in Basel. Unbelievable! Almost everytime that I've watched the news during this past month I've read headlines of the US preparing for yet another winterstorm while in Europe we're enjoying a very mild winter with temperatures above zero and no snow in town at all. Even my mother tells me almost everyday that this winter is being incredibly cold in Tenerife and it has already snowed three or four times there this season. So how come we are not getting any of this in Basel? Some might say the weather is crazy but I call it climate change.

Snowier times in Basel ... I miss them!

I was doing my usual blog reading this morning and this post from Pilar of Petit Colibri really caught my eye. She was making her blog carbon neutral and adopting a tree in return. 'Why?', I wondered, 'what wrong is a blog doing to our environment?'. Well, I clicked quickly to her link to learn more about it and it seems that
a blog hitting 15000 pageviews per month generates around 3.6 Kg of CO2 per year. That is 0.3 Kg per month, which doesn't sound like much. But if you consider all the blogs out there and do the maths, well, that's a lot of CO2 wastage derived from the electric consumption of computers and servers and their refrigeration systems.

Several organizations in Europe have come up with a project to mitigate, if possible, the effects of these carbon emissions. An average tree absorbs around 5 Kg of CO2 per year from the atmosphere and it would then offset the CO2 emissions of an average blog. Thus, if every blogger would plant a tree, they would be somehow neautralising the CO2 their blogs produce. And that's the simple idea behind this 'carbon neutral blog' project. These organizations are giving bloggers the chance to adopt a tree for free as a symbolical gesture to offset their carbon emissions. All you have to do is send them a mail with your blog address and grab a button stating that your blog is carbon neutral. As simple as that! I have just joined pro Tierra and I have seen similar iniciatives in France, Germany and Russia, but none in English. If you know about a similar carbon offset scheme from an English-speaking country, just share the link.

Thanks, Pilar, for sharing this good idea - I hope you get inspired and join along as well :)
I'm now going offline to enjoy some old-fashioned and non-polluting book reading.
Have a lovely weekend!

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